Hemp – that word usually stirs up associations with stoned hippies and “reefer madness”. But hemp is so much more, particularly what’s known as industrial hemp – a cousin of marijuana.
Two North Dakota farmers are suing the DEA for the right to grow industrial hemp. The US DEA sees the plant as being a controlled substance because it’s a subspecies of Cannabis Sativa L. Some see the legalizing of industrial hemp as a stepping stone to the legalization of marijuana and there’s also concerns that in relaxing the laws, industrial hemp fields would need heavy policing to ensure marijuana isn’t being grown also.
While marijuana’s THC (tetrahydrocannabinol- the hallucinogenic stuff) levels can range between 3 and 20 percent, industrial hemp has far lower levels – between .3 and 1 percent. In other words, you couldn’t get high on it and industrial hemp also contains another chemical that blocks the effects of THC. Some industrial hemp plants have been bred that contain no THC at all.
Hemp has been in use by man for purposes other than recreational and medicinal uses for thousands of years. Today, it’s used in ropes, textiles, paper, construction, the automotive industry, food and cosmetics.
While it is technically legal to grow it in the USA, cannabis can only be cultivated with special permits and for the purposes of medical or research purposes only – and it seems the University of Mississippi is the only permit holder. Most hemp products coming into the USA are imported from dozens of other industrialized countries that permit the cultivation of industrial hemp.
It’s a really odd situation – industrial hemp is an incredibly useful plant and is more environmentally friendly than other crops in large scale agricultural operations in that it can grow quickly in poor soils and isn’t water, pesticide or herbicide intensive. In fact, it can help restore fields that have been degraded through poor farming practices.
I hope sanity prevails and the North Dakota farmers are successful in their action.. and no, I don’t smoke the other stuff in case you were wondering; not even Bill Clinton style :) – I’m actually pretty much opposed to smoking marijuana as a recreational pursuit.
Learn more about this amazing plant in Hemp facts